Nothing beats the feeling of mixing business with pleasure - hitting two birds with one small stone. Just a few weeks back, I and three of my officemates attended a mandatory annual workshop held in Iloilo City. When we first knew about the venue of the workshop this year, we knew that we were in for a lot of adventure. Two words – Gigantes Islands.
After two days of mind-feeding sessions at the University of Iloilo, it was finally time to satisfy my hunger for adventure. We took a cab going to Estancia Port (Php 2000) where our private boat was waiting to take us to the island. During the two hour and a half ride, we passed by barangays that were evidently starting to recover from the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda. As soon as we reached the port, we wasted no time and immediately hopped onto the boat. After a good 2-hour ride, we reached the island and we were welcomed by piles, no, mountains of scallop shell by the shore, hence the title “Scallops Capital of the Philippines”. We were fetched by our guide on a motorcycle (“habal-habal”) and brought us to the resort.
Gigantes Hideaway Resort was meek and simple but still provided the guests with a comfortable place to stay in. Electricity was only available from 6pm-6am. This means we had little time to charge up all our gadgets in preparation for the activities the following day. Network was not available so I’m happy I was able to detach myself from the internet even for a few days. The only concern I had with the place was the unbelievably gargantuan pterodactyls, I mean, mosquitoes. It was as if they were big enough to pull down my blanket and feast on my sun-hungry skin.
I got up early next day in the hopes of watching the sun rise by the beach. But sadly, the sun hid shyly behind the nearby islands as it rose to kick off our first day on the island. I was informed that our island-hopping tour will start by 9am, just in time for the arrival of the “catch of the day” which they usually serve for lunch. Therefore, first on our list was the cave. It was after a 15-20 minute trek that we finally reached the mouth of Pawikan cave. This experience was definitely a challenge. The ground was wet and slippery. Deep in my gut I thanked my cardio, leg and endurance training because I was able to stay on my feet during this physically demanding activity. As we reached the recesses of the cave, we immediately saw the walls lined with amazing rock formations and rays of light pierced through the chasms from the top of the mountain. However, when our guide showed us the area where we had to climb sharp rocks, our group decided to turn back since some of us thought they are not physically capable to do the challenge ahead of us.
After going back to the resort for a quick prep for the island hopping tour, we boarded our boat and set off to the Bantigue Island Sandbar. We were just in time that the sandbar is just starting to appear amidst the vast crystalline ocean.
Next on our itinerary was the iconic Cabugaw Gamay Island. This is the island that usually appears on almost everything about Gigantes Islands. After a sumptuous seafood meal for lunch and a slightly perilous but extremely exciting climb, we reached the peak where tourists like ourselves take the mandatory photo op overlooking the majestic view of the island and the white sand beaches opposite each other.
After an hour or so, we started heading towards what locals call as Tangke Island Saltwater Lagoon or simply “Tangke”. Upon reaching the island, I was immediately enthralled with the fascinating rock formations or “Pader” bordering the lagoon. One of the highlights of the trip occurred in this attraction. Jumping off a cliff is definitely an experience worth remembering (if you live to tell the story). You will be asked to spring yourself from a good 10 to 15-foot cliff towards the ocean surrounding the lagoon. Wearing a life vest was discouraged because the impact may cause strangulation or other injuries. Even so, I did not worry because the experienced tour guide waited in the water with the life vest. As I stared at the ocean below I can feel my heart pounding heavily. And finally with a loud scream, I leapt forward towards the deep ocean. I can still feel the rush the experience brought me up to this day and I’m so glad I was able to conquer my fears and do it – twice.
Last stop was Antonia Island - a small island with white sand beaches and rock formations resembling tasty breads in a row. Aside from lounging around in the sand and hugging all the sun I can muster, I was also able to snorkel around the area and view the reefs and the colorful fauna it offered.
First day came to a close. I slept like a baby through the night, extremely exhausted and because the “katol” battled all the large mosquitoes that circled the room. Ayun, tepok.
The next day, we started off early to view the sunrise from the lighthouse on the edge of the island and witness the sea folks head off to their crab and squid traps in pursuit of their daily meals.
After a few hours, we started heading back to Estancia Port and Iloilo City so we can still have time to hoard biscochios and bags of butterscotch.
All in all, this trip definitely goes to my faves list. In the island, life was simple and modest. People were very courteous and polite. Food, don’t get me started on the food. The resort served us with different dishes of scallops (sizzling, breaded, adobo, steamed, curried) and other seafood which I totally enjoyed. The place offered more than what I expected. It pushed me to my limit and unleashed the dauntless adventurer in me. And just like David, with one small stone, I conquered the giant.
PS. Special shoutout to my companions who I will never go on an adventure without.
- Belo Sun Expert Mist - non greasy and it gives my skin "beer battered" glow, not to mention the ease of application especially when we are pressed for time or there's no one to apply it on my back
- GoPro Hero 3+ - the perfect action cam; death defying adventures are well documented thanks to this small genius
- Panda Sunglasses - what is an adventure or a trip to the paradise without spreading cheers and good vibes brought about by this amazing must-have? Lightweight and stylish, not to mention it's for a cause. For more styles and details, click here.
And now with a new addition - Samsung Galaxy S5. It has proven itself to be an awesome companion because of its ultra-clear camera and waterproof feature. This is definitely a reasonable investment for any Android-powered wanderlust.
(Landscape photos will be posted soon. Stay tuned.)
Tour Package - Php 2,285 for 4 pax
Private boat (port-island-port)
Island hopping tour
Island entrance fees
Motor bike fares
For more details contact Joel Decano - Tourism officer of Carles, Iloilo and owner of Gigantes Hideaway Inn at 0918-468-5006